PREPLANNING BUILDING HAZADS

PREPLANNING BUILDING HAZADS

Editor`s note: For further reference, consult Building Construction for the Fire Service, Third Edition. Page numbers are included after each caption for your convenience.

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(Top) Row houses, because they are less expensive, have become popular across the country. In some cases, builders are permitted to use the masonry fire wall as a bearing wall for a main girder, as shown. The hole in the wall will allow fire to pass. If the basement is finished out, as is customary, the fire extension will be hidden. If the occupant complains to the chief about smoke in his home, the reply might be, “What do you expect? There is a fire next door.” Unlike some of the other building hazards shown, the outcome might not be fatal, unless the chief dies of embarrassment. (BCFS3, p. 233)

(Middle) The truss void is a significant new hazard trusses present for firefighters (the collapse hazard, of course, is the better-known hazard). A fire starting in the void from wiring or a defective light fixture, for instance, will get a good chance to build up while tenants and management hunt for the source of the smoke. Great quantities of CO could be generated, which might ignite or even explode violently when firefighters pull the ceiling to search for the fire. The many crosspieces would make it difficult to hit the fire, and fog streams may push the air the fire needs into the void. Such a fire would be unhindered by a 13R sprinkler system. (BCFS3, pp. 549, 542-543, and 580 re residential sprinkler systems)

Management suggestion: The problem of citizens` searching for smoke should be addressed in meetings with occupants and managers. Specifically, point out that it is a fire department function to determine whether smoke is hostile. Get rid of self-defeating terms such as “smoke scare” and “unnecessary alarm.” Why should we say that anything we do is “unnecessary,” when it isn`t? Fifty years ago, I coined the statement “Delayed Alarms Cause Fire Disasters.” A PR campaign caused fire alarms to increase 50 percent–not for fires–but the fire department was not sitting idle while citizens fought fires.

Tactical consideration: Would using a thermal-imaging device to locate hot spots and a piercing nozzle to provide a diffused spray at the hot spot be better than pulling the ceiling and using a handline into the void? I`d love to hear your opinion and your experience, good or bad.

(Bottom) Wall columns–in this case, of solid brick–are placed in the concrete block wall to carry heavy loads, such as a girder, thus also stabilizing the wall. If you are breaching a wall and find brick, solid concrete blocks, or reinforced concrete, realize that you are right under a heavy load and choose another location for the breaching. (BCFS3, pp. 73, 74, 168, 342) n

FRANCIS L. BRANNIGAN, SFPE, a 55-year veteran of the fire service, began his fire service career as a naval firefighting officer in World War II. He`s best known for his seminars and writing on firefighter safety and for his book Building Construction for the Fire Service, Third Edition, published by the National Fire Protection Association. Brannigan is an editorial advisory board member of Fire Engineering and the first recipient of the Fire Engineering Lifetime Achievement Award.

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